Three justices of the State Supreme Court (Reif, Colbert, Watt), one justice of the Court of Criminal Appeals (Lumpkin), and five justices of the Court of Civil Appeals (Goodman, Wiseman, Barnes, Rapp, Goree) will be on Tuesday's ballot.
Oklahoma has a two-path appellate system: Criminal cases are appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which has the final word. Civil cases are appealed to the State Supreme Court, which may and usually does assign cases to the Court of Civil Appeals. Since 1967, judges in the appellate system have been appointed by the governor from choices presented by a panel dominated by a private club, the Oklahoma Bar Association. A newly appointed justice or appellate judge faces a retention ballot at the next general election and, if retained, every six years thereafter. Voters do not choose between candidates for these offices; each judge or justice faces a YES or NO vote. If the NO votes outnumber the YES votes, that judge is removed from office, creating a vacancy which is filled by the usual process.
I plan to vote YES on only one judicial retention: Court of Civil Appeals Judge Brian Goree, appointed by Gov. Fallin. Conservative blogger and attorney Don Danz wrote a tribute to Judge Goree at his swearing-in:
A former coworker, shooting buddy and good friend was sworn in as a judge today at the Oklahoma Supreme Court. In August, Gov. Mary Fallin appointed Brian Goree to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals. Everyone who knows Brian would attest to the fact that he is the most honest, ethical, moral and hard working person we know. He will be an outstanding and absolutely unbiased addition to the Oklahoma judiciary.
I urge every Oklahoman to vote NO on Court of Civil Appeals Judge Jane Wiseman. As a district judge in 2003, Wiseman demonstrated partiality toward the rich and powerful by approving the unconstitutional logrolling in the Vision 2025 ballot. Her 2003 decision ignored her own reasoning eight years earlier when she rightly discarded a sales tax proposal for the new county jail because it included funds for early intervention programs on the same ballot item as funds for the jail's construction and operation.
Earlier this month, we saw Judge Wiseman officiate over the first "legal" "same-sex wedding" in Oklahoma, showing her solidarity not with the people who voted overwhelmingly to uphold the only definition of marriage that makes sense, but instead with the leftist fascists who seek to impose their morality on every state. Wiseman demonstrated her support for judges legislating from the bench, for seeing the voters of Oklahoma as subjects to be subdued, not a sovereign, self-governing people.
There have been too many examples of judicial overreach and incoherence from Oklahoma's appellate courts.
In July, a majority of the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld State Rep. Sydney Fred Jordan's eligibility to be elected District Attorney. Their one-paragraph decision failed to address the legal questions raised by the briefs filed on behalf of Jordan and his opponent Steve Kunzweiler. The heart of the matter was when a state representative's term ends and when a district attorney is considered elected. The majority decision didn't speak to the language of the constitutional provision, Article V, Section 23, at question, or address the claim that Gragg v. Dudley applied to the District Attorney's office. Only Justice Taylor, in his dissent, wrestled with the substantive matters of interpretation raised by the case. The five justices who concurred in the seemingly tossed-off decision -- Kauger, Watt (up for retention), Winchester, Edmondson, and Gurich -- should be deeply embarrassed. Reif, who is on this year's retention ballot, recused himself. Colbert and Combs did not participate. On the strength of this decision alone, I will vote NO on Watt.
State Rep. David Derby reports that the Supreme Court's chief justice, Tom Colbert, came to the state capital to lobby against Derby's proposed reforms to the state's DUI laws. Derby was trying to move DUI charges into District Court so that they would be handled in a court of record, rather than municipal court. He cited one example where a driver had around two dozen DUIs, but because they were handled in municipal court, they failed to trigger a driver's license suspension. According to Derby, Colbert personally lobbied against the bill, which failed to advance.
A series of decisions earlier this year clinch the case against the three justices on the ballot. A split Supreme Court voted 5-4 to issue a stay of execution for brutal murderers Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner over disclosure of the drugs to be used in their lethal injection executions, despite our state constitution giving final jurisdiction over such issues to the Court of Criminal Appeals. The three justices up for retention this year -- Colbert, Reif, Watt -- were in the narrow majority along with Kauger and Combs. Taylor, Edmondson, Winchester, and Gurich dissented. In each of six decisions in the case, Taylor chided his colleagues, describing the majority as "crossing the Rubicon" and putting the Supreme Court in a matter where it has no constitutional authority, and thereby producing a "quagmire."
Of the substance of the murderers' appeal, Taylor wrote:
It is my view that from the very beginning this so called "civil" litigation has been frivolous and a complete waste of time and resources of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. The plaintiffs have no more right to the information they requested than if they were being executed in the electric chair, they would have no right to know whether OG&E or PSO were providing the electricity; if they were being hanged, they would have no right to know whether it be by cotton or nylon rope; or if they were being executed by firing squad, they would have no right to know whether it be by Winchester or Remington ammunition. I hope that this case ends any thought of future journeys down this path that has led this Court to this day. It is also my hope that this Court never again crosses the Rubicon.
If voters get rid of the three justices on the wrong side of this issue, perhaps we can get a few more justices like Steven Taylor. (Taylor is next up for retention in 2016. It should be noted, however, that Taylor was on the wrong side of the TABOR petition, voting to toss it out without a hearing.)
Oklahomans for Life has called for reform of the judicial selection process because our own courts have thwarted legislative and initiative efforts to pass pro-life legislation. Effectively, these judges have blocked Oklahomans from advancing a law that might provide the occasion for the Federal Courts to reconsider and possibly reverse Roe v. Wade.
When in doubt, vote them out. A Fallin appointment is likelier to be committed to judicial restraint than holdover appointees of Democratic governors Brad Henry and David Walters. The removal of an appellate judge by the voters would also send a message to other justices that voters are paying attention to their decisions.
A few hundred years ago, Voltaire commented on the execution of a British admiral, executed on the deck of his own ship for a failure to do his utmost. "Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres." ("In this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time so to encourage the others.")
In Oklahoma, it is wise to fire an appellate judge from time to time so as to "encourage the others" to do justice and respect the will of the people they are sworn to serve.
Three questions will be on every ballot in Oklahoma next Tuesday. Two have to do with property taxes; one has to do with whether state officials may also serve in the National Guard and Reserves. None of these questions are controversial, but because they involve amendments to the State Constitution, they must be put to the voters for approval. The Oklahoma Secretary of State is the official keeper of information state questions; links below will take you to the Secretary of State's site.
This year's state questions are all legislative referenda. Initiative petitions relating to school storm shelters, marijuana, and fees for connection to the electric utility grid were filed, but petition signatures were filed only for SQ 768, the medical marijuana petition. 155,216 signatures were required (15% of the highest number of votes cast for any office in the previous Oklahoma general election, in 2010), but only 75,384 were submitted and certified.
State Rep. Jason Murphey says that this is the "easiest year to write about these questions because there are only three on the ballot, and they are not controversial." He supported all three proposals.
SQ 769 went through the legislature as Senate Joint Resolution 33, passing the House 82-5 and the Senate 44-0. If SQ 769 is approved, the underlined text will be added to Article II, Section 12 of the Oklahoma Constitution:
Section 12. No member of Congress from this State, or person holding any office of trust or profit under the laws of any other State, or of the United States, shall hold any office of trust or profit under the laws of this State; provided, neither the provisions of this section nor any other provision of this Constitution or state law shall be construed to prohibit the following officeholders from holding at the same time any other office of trust or profit:
1. Officers and enlisted members of the National Guard;
2. Officers and enlisted members of the National Guard Reserve;
3. Officers of the Officers Reserve Corps of the United States;
4. Enlisted members of the Organized Reserves of the United States; and
5. Officers and enlisted members of the Oklahoma State Guard and any other active militia or military force organized under state law.
The Legislature shall have the power to enact laws to further implement the provisions of this section.
The intent is to eliminate any question as to whether guard and reserve troops may also serve in public office in Oklahoma.
SQ 770 went through the legislature as HB2621, passing both houses unanimously. If SQ 770 is approved, a new paragraph will be added to Article X, Section 8E, which provides a full homestead exemption for service-disabled veterans and their surviving spouses:
C. If a homestead otherwise eligible for the exemption authorized by this section is transferred on or after January 1 of a calendar year, another homestead property acquired by the qualifying head of household or by the surviving spouse of such qualifying head of household shall be exempt to the same extent as the homestead property previously owned by such person or persons for the year during which the new homestead is acquired and, subject to the requirements of this section, for each year thereafter.
Rep. Murphey writes:
Oklahoma's Constitution currently allows disabled veterans to receive an exemption from most property taxes. State Question 770 allows disabled veterans to sell their home and transfer the exemption to their new home during the same calendar year with no drop off in the exemption.
SQ 771 went through the legislature in the same bill, HB2621. It adds Section 8F to Article X, providing the same sort of homestead exemption to the surviving spouses of troops killed in the line of duty:
Section 8F. A. Despite any provision to the contrary, and except as otherwise provided by subsection D of this section, beginning January 1, 2015, the surviving spouse of the head of household who is determined by the United States Department of Defense or any branch of the United States military to have died while in the line of duty shall be entitled to claim an exemption for the full amount of the fair cash value of the homestead until such surviving spouse remarries.
B. In order to be eligible for the exemption authorized by this section, the surviving spouse shall be required to prove residency within the State of Oklahoma and must have previously qualified for the homestead exemption authorized by law or be eligible for the homestead exemption pursuant to law.
C. If a homestead otherwise eligible for the exemption authorized by this section is transferred on or after January 1 of a calendar year, another homestead property acquired by the surviving spouse shall be exempt to the same extent as the homestead property previously owned by such person for the year during which the new homestead is acquired and, subject to the requirements of this section, for each year thereafter.
D. The provisions of this section shall be applicable for the 2014 calendar year with respect to an existing homestead property owned by the surviving spouse of a person previously determined to have died while in the line of duty by the United States Department of Defense or applicable branch of the United States military.
I will vote FOR all three state questions.
Here's a blog entry unlikely to make anyone happy, but here's the information I'm working with as I consider the race for District Court, District 14, Office 1.
There have been several notorious cases involving particularly heinous crimes in which Tulsa County District Judge William Kellough has lightened a sentence imposed by a jury or reduced his own sentence substantially. In one case, the reduction was grievous enough to inspire two Oklahoma State Representatives to pursue legislation to make it easier to remove judges who imposed light sentences for heinous crimes.
While Oklahoma voters have the opportunity to remove district judges at four-year intervals, that opportunity depends upon the presence of a viable opposition candidate. In a retention ballot, you can vote to oust the incumbent and allow the governor to appoint a replacement. District court races are contested and the only way to remove an incumbent is to elect his opponent.
Kellough won a contested election over Cliff Smith in 2006 for an open seat, was unopposed in 2010, and now faces former Associate District Judge Caroline Wall on next Tuesday's ballot. Kellough's endorsers include Kathy Taylor, George Kaiser, Howard Barnett, and Sharon King Davis, and Kellough has raised $77,008.00 for this campaign. Wall has raised $3,400.
Wall had been elected Associate District Judge in 2002 winning by a 60-40 margin over incumbent Deirdre Dexter. In 2006, Wall was defeated for re-election by Dana Kuehn, by the narrow margin of 1024 votes. In 2010, Wall finished fourth of five in a race for an open seat, missing the runoff by about 2000 votes.
In that 2006 race, I joined many other voices, including the Tulsa Area Republican Assembly and Oklahoma Republican Assembly, in supporting Kuehn to replace Wall. In my UTW pre-election column, I wrote, "In contrast, the performance of Caroline Wall (judgecarolinewall.com), the judge who replaced [Dexter], elicits widespread dismay. Attorneys say Wall doesn't keep up with her docket. Wall's leniency is another cause for concern -- there's a long list of cases in which Wall reduced or completely suspended jail terms for convicted murderers and sexual predators."
Below are some of the cases cited by Kellough's critics. Is Kellough too soft-headed and soft-hearted to be an effective judge? Is he allowing his own bleeding heart to overcome the demands of justice? Or is he being a good steward of the state's corrections budget by reducing sentences for remorseful felons? Would Caroline Wall be any better?
Neeley was charged with and convicted by a jury of the first-degree murder of a toddler. The jury had the option of finding guilt on a lesser charge, but instead found Neeley guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to life with the possibility of parole. Judge Kellough suspended all but 12 years of the sentence and gave Neeley credit for the year already served because the defendant showed remorse. The prosecutor in the case, Assistant DA Jake Cain, said that Neeley changed his story in the course of the investigation. From the DA's office Fall 2009 newsletter
J.J. Hall weighed only 28 pounds in August 2008 when he died of a lacerated liver and blunt trauma to his abdomen after his mother left him in the care of Larry Martin Neeley at her home.
Assistant District Attorney Jake Cain maintained Neeley inflicted the blow that led to the toddler's death. Neeley said the child had been told not to climb on the bunk bed and admitted he jerked the child from a bunk bed ladder and said the child struck a dresser and the floor.
A Tulsa County jury in October convicted Neeley of FIRST-DEGREE MURDER in J.J.'s death and sentenced him to LIFE IN PRISON. The jury had the option to convict him of a lesser charge of manslaughter, but opted to find him guilty of murder and sentenced
him as the law instructed for first-degree murder: LIFE in prison.
In December, Judge William Kellough suspended all but 12 YEARS of the LIFE prison term, and gave Neeley credit for the year he spent in jail awaiting trial. The judge said he reduced the term because he believed Neeley was remorseful.
Cain and District Attorney Tim Harris asked the judge to follow the jury's sentence. Cain noted that Neeley changed his story as the investigation unfolded.
'As adults, we owe it to these children to protect them, because they are not able to
defend themselves," Cain said.
"J. J. wasn't doing anything other than acting like a 19-month old child that morning," Cain said.
He said he is troubled that the judge did not follow the sentence of the jury. When we take a case to a jury trial, we are bound by that verdict," Cain said.
Prosecutors say the two sisters were ages 12 and 14. Police say Swyden chatted with the 12-year-old online on a social networking site. They say the girl snuck out to meet him and that she says he forced her to perform a sex act. Later, police say, her 14-year-old sister met Swyden and had sex with him.
Swyden, 21 at the time of the offenses, pled guilty and in February 2011 was sentenced to 15 years on each charge, to run concurrently. In December 2011, Judge Kellough reduced the sentence to 10 years in prison, five years probation. The Tulsa World reported that "Kellough indicated Monday that Swyden has made progress with the aid of counseling and through the defendant's efforts to correct his own behavior."
Swyden was arrested on the Tulsa County charges while out on bond for a 2009 arrest in Creek County, in which he was charged with two counts of second-degree rape, two counts of forcible sodomy, and one count of distribution of obscene material. According to news reports, Swyden met his 13-year-old victim on Myspace. In February 2011, earlier in the same month as the Tulsa County conviction, the Creek County court sentenced him to eight years in prison, seven years probation. Unlike Kellough, Judge Douglas Golden denied a September 2011 request to review Swyden's sentence.
From the DA's office Winter 2013 newsletter:
The crime occurred in March 2011. Jurors sentenced Anderson to a total of 50 YEARS IN PRISON - 15 YEARS on each of three counts of Rape, 5 YEARS on Kidnapping and 6 MONTHS for assault and battery. At formal sentencing, District Judge William Kellough ordered the three 15-YEAR TERMS RUN CONCURRENTLY, reducing the sentence to a total of 20 YEARS IN PRISON.
Howard was a worker at two church-based child-care centers. She was found guilty on two charges of child abuse by injury, and was sentenced by Kellough in February 2013 to twelve years in prison followed by three years probation. Less than a year later, in December 2013, after her attorney requested a review of the sentence, Kellough reduced her sentence to a suspended sentence and released her from custody. From the DA's office Winter 2013 newsletter:
Howard was accused of inserting her finger into the vagina of a 19-MONTH OLD GIRL in November 2012 at John Knox Child Development Center. Howard claimed it was an accident while changing a diaper. The child needed surgery to repair the injury. In 2008, an 8-MONTH-OLD BOY under Howard's care received a spiral leg fracture at Kirk of the Hills Mother's Day Out program.
Hill, who later changed his name to Tyler Woodson Basset, struck and killed a bicyclist with his pickup in April 2010 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in August 2011. Judge Kellough reduced his sentence to eight years in prison plus seven years probation. According to news reports:
Tulsa County prosecutors asserted that Hill was impaired by alcohol when he was driving a pickup that struck Vernon Worley, who was riding a bicycle in the 3100 block of North Cincinnati Avenue on April 16, 2010.
Worley, 56, of Owasso, was fatally injured. The pickup did not stop at the scene, police said.
Plum killed a friend with a handgun and was sentenced in December 2008 to fifteen years in prison. In November 2009, Kellough modified the sentence to ten years in prison, five years probation. From the news story on the sentence reduction:
A Tulsa family pleaded with a judge not to reduce a killer's sentence, but the judge knocked five years off the man's 15-year sentence. The judge says the age of the suspect - 16 at the time - was a big reason why.
However, the victim was also 16 when she was shot in the face, and now her family is devastated the judge went against the jury's sentence.
Heather Garoutte was 16 years old and visiting a former boyfriend, Preston Plum, on June 30th, 2007. Records show he was smoking pot and messing with a gun that went off, shooting Heather in the face.
He says it was an accident.
"He's claiming he had the gun in his hand when the hammer got stuck so he released it," said Nicole Hicks, Heather's sister.
Plum didn't do anything to help Heather. Instead, he took off to Okmulgee County where he emptied the gun and ditched the bullets in the trash, threw the gun in a pond and got rid of his bloody clothes in a third location....
Tulsa County Judge William Kellough said this was a unique case and the first one he's modified in nearly 50 jury trials. He said the ages and the circumstances of this crime were seared into his memory, and he believed shortening the sentence was in the best interest of justice.
Castillo, 23 and a janitor at Victory Christian Church at the time, was charged with making a lewd or indecent proposal to a minor child. News reports say the indecent proposal was made via Facebook and that the victim was a 14-year-old girl that Castillo had met at church. Castillo pled guilty. Kellough dismissed a second charge of the use of a computer to facilitate a sex crime. The DA's office recommended a sentence of ten years in prison followed by five years on probation. Kellough instead imposed a much lighter sentence of 1.5 years in prison and 4.5 years on probation.
A 35-year-old teacher's aide pled guilty in July 2008 to second-degree rape of a 15-year-old student. Kellough imposed an eight-year suspended sentence, with no prison time.
Not too long ago, two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned to the other and said, "We don't know how lucky we are." And the Cuban stopped and said, "How lucky you are? I had someplace to escape to." And in that sentence he told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there's no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.
And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man.
This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.
You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I'd like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There's only an up or down--[up] man's old--old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course....
Meanwhile, back in the city, under urban renewal the assault on freedom carries on. Private property rights [are] so diluted that public interest is almost anything a few government planners decide it should be. In a program that takes from the needy and gives to the greedy, we see such spectacles as in Cleveland, Ohio, a million-and-a-half-dollar building completed only three years ago must be destroyed to make way for what government officials call a "more compatible use of the land." The President tells us he's now going to start building public housing units in the thousands, where heretofore we've only built them in the hundreds. But FHA [Federal Housing Authority] and the Veterans Administration tell us they have 120,000 housing units they've taken back through mortgage foreclosure. For three decades, we've sought to solve the problems of unemployment through government planning, and the more the plans fail, the more the planners plan.
Judges are supposed to apply the laws passed by our elected representatives in the legislature. Applying the law faithfully requires faithfully interpreting the words of the law as they are commonly understood. A judicial candidate who uses words in accordance with her own idiosyncratic decisions in an obvious attempt to mislead should be blocked from the bench by voters at the ballot box.
District Judge Kurt Glassco faces a challenge in his bid for re-election to District 14, Office 14, from Jill Webb.
In her campaign materials, Webb described herself as "happily married to a minister." That invokes a certain image based on a common understanding of the meaning of words. The vast majority of Oklahomans stand with civilized societies around the world and throughout history in understanding that marriage, rooted as it is in the realities of human begetting and the best interests of those begotten, necessarily involves one man and one woman, united for a lifetime.
Jill Webb means something different by those words. The minister to whom Webb claims to be married is Tamara Lebak, associate minister of All Souls Unitarian Church. Oklahoma law and civilized tradition doesn't recognize that as a valid marriage, notwithstanding the Leftist Fascist effort to impose its destructive redefinition of marriage through the courts. Someone who redefines words and uses them deceptively cannot be trusted to handle justly the words of the Constitution and statutes of Oklahoma. Additionally, a candidate who supports redefining marriage and is "married" to a Unitarian minister can be presumed to stand with Leftist Fascism and in opposition to civilization in the great ideological struggle over American institutions.
Kurt Glassco, the incumbent, has a reputation as a solid, reliable jurist. Although he was a Democratic candidate for Congress many years ago, the conservative attorneys I know unanimously describe him as trustworthy and fair. Certainly Glassco's re-election would be better than the election of a candidate evidently at ease with verbal deception.
We'll start our review of judicial races with an easy one, albeit one that is just outside Tulsa County, although it covers portions of the cities of Tulsa, Skiatook, and Sand Springs.
Judicial District 10 consists of Osage County, and it has exactly one district judge. Like all 77 counties, Osage County also has its own associate district judge. (District Attorney District 10 includes both Osage and Pawnee Counties. Why Pawnee County was attached to Tulsa County for judicial purposes is a mystery.)
The incumbent is John Kane. An Osage County native and graduate of Pawhuska High School, Kane was appointed to the post in 2005. Kane drew no opposition for re-election in 2006 or 2010, but this year, he is opposed by Skiatook attorney Philip Best.
Judge Kane is well-regarded by his judicial peers, by local law enforcement, and the legal community. In 2013-2014, Kane was president of the Oklahoma Judicial Conference, the statewide association of judges. He is presiding judge-elect of the Northeastern Judicial Administrative District, again elected by his peers in the region. Kane also serves as the Trial Court Chairman of the Oklahoma Supreme Court's e-court subcommittee. Kane has been endorsed by the Osage County Bar Association, the police chiefs of Pawhuska, Fairfax, Barnsdall, Hominy, Wynona, and Skiatook, the sheriff of Osage County, the principal chief of the Osage Nation, and the current and former district attorneys for the county. During his nine-plus years on the bench, he has presided as a judge in over 9,000 cases.
Our family has known the Kane family for seven years through our homeschooling community. Judge Kane's wife, Cyndi Kane, launched a Classical Conversations community in Tulsa in 2007. The Classical Conversations approach to homeschooling seeks "to know God and to make Him known," and to support homeschooling parents "by cultivating the love of learning through a Christian worldview in fellowship with other families."
More recently, we watched Judge Kane in action, presiding over mock trials involving eighth-grade students from several CC communities. For several years, he has opened the Osage County courthouse to student mock trials, as a way to introduce young people to the law and give them an understanding and respect for the process. Judge Kane's good humor, fairness, and insight were on display throughout the process.
The challenger, Philip Best, has a problematic past readily visible through a search of online court cases. Here's how the Bigheart Times, based in Barnsdall, summarized Best's past, in an October 16, 2014, story (links added):
According to court documents, Best was arrested at his Skiatook home for misdemeanor domestic abuse in December 1999. The case was eventually dismissed at the victim's request after he completed anger management courses.
Additionally, in 2004, his now ex-wife, Lori Duncan, took out a protective order in Tulsa County on behalf of the couple's underage daughter.
When asked about his record, Best chalked it up to his health and his marriages at the time and emphasized his ability to remain fair and impartial on the bench if elected.
The contrast is clear. John Kane, an accomplished judge with a solid personal life and grounded in a classical Christian worldview, would deserve re-election whoever his opponent might have been, but even more so given the spotty record of his opponent. I urge my Osage County friends to re-elect Judge Kane.
Tomorrow morning, Monday, October 27, 2014, at 8 a.m., I'll be on 1170 KFAQ discussing judicial races on the Pat Campbell Show. (UPDATE: Here is the podcast of my conversation about judicial races with Pat Campbell, Eddie Huff, and Tulsa Beacon publisher Charlie Biggs. Here is a direct link to the MP3 file.)
Judicial races are the trickiest part of the ballot. In Oklahoma, only district court races are contested, and all judicial elections are non-partisan. The Oklahoma Code of Judicial Conduct, set by the State Supreme Court, tightly controls what judicial candidates can say and how they can campaign. This code grants a private club, the Oklahoma Bar Association, an official role in policing judicial candidates. Attorneys, who have first-hand experience with the capabilities and character of judicial candidates, are wary of speaking out against a judge before whom they may one day have to stand. If you're lucky, you may get some off-the-record scoop from friends at the courthouse. All this adds up to confusion and frustration for the voter.
In 2004, the Oklahoma Family Policy Council put together a questionnaire for Supreme Court and appellate judges focusing on judicial philosophy. They had their attorneys look at the questionnaire to ensure that judges would not violate Oklahoma's Code of Judicial Conduct by answering the questions. In the end, six of the eight judges sent a letter saying they couldn't respond to the questionnaire, the other two didn't respond at all.
Worldview matters. We are in the midst of a culture war. Like all movements grounded in unreality, the leftist fascist movement seeks totalitarian control of institutions and the destruction of any institution it can't control. Never has it been more important to know whether the men and women who seek to be our judges are in accord with the founding principles of American jurisprudence and Western Civilization or are in sympathy with the destructive forces arrayed against civilization.
While I know many fair-minded and good-hearted liberals, fair-minded enough to rule against their own ideological interests if the law points that way, many on the left have been influenced by the ideas of critical legal theory, which boils everything down to power and the use of any means to the end of establishing left-wing dogma as the state religion.
We need to see the hearts of these candidates. Sometimes we have rulings and written opinions that tell us whether a judge is with civilization or against it. At times we may only have indirect indications of a judge's character and worldview.
In the blog entries that follow, and in my radio comments tomorrow, I'll do my best to set out my judgment of the judges and the basis for that judgment.
MORE: This is an update of an entry from 2006 about the judicial offices in Judicial District 14. The structure and offices are the same, but some of the names are different for 2014.
It took me a while to puzzle all this out, and I thought others might be interested as well.
Oklahoma has 26 District Courts. Tulsa County and Pawnee County constitute Judicial District No. 14. State law says that District 14 has 14 district judge offices. (Why are Tulsa County and Pawnee County coupled together? Why not Pawnee with, say, Osage, and Tulsa on its own, as Oklahoma County is?)
One judge must reside in and be nominated from Pawnee County, eight must reside in and be nominated from Tulsa County. If there are more than two candidates for any of those nine offices, there is a non-partisan nominating primary in the appropriate county, and the top two vote-getters are on the general election ballot. (Even if one gets more than 50% of the vote, the top two still advance.)
In the general election, all voters in Pawnee and Tulsa Counties vote on those nine seats.
The remaining five district judges are selected by electoral division in Tulsa County. In order to comply with the Voting Rights Act, Tulsa County is divided into five electoral divisions, one of which (Electoral Division 3) has a "minority-majority" population. (The minority-majority district is much smaller than the other four, as it must be in order to guarantee that the electorate is majority African-American.) For each of these five offices, if there are three or more candidates, there is a non-partisan nominating primary. If one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, he is elected; otherwise, the top two advance to the general election. For each of these five offices, the candidates must reside in the corresponding electoral division, and only voters in that electoral division will vote for that office in the primary and general election. (Oklahoma County, Judicial District No. 7, is the only other county with judges elected by division.)
Despite the three different paths one can take to be elected, a Judge in Judicial District No. 14 can be assigned to try any case within the two counties.
Each county in the state also elects an Associate District Judge, nominated and elected countywide. After two elections in a row in which the incumbent Tulsa County Associate District Judge was ousted, for the second time Dana Kuehn has been reelected without opposition. There is a two-man contest for Pawnee County Associate District Judge, Patrick Pickerell of Cleveland v. Ken Privett of Pawnee.
In addition to the elected judges, the District has a certain number of Special Judges, who are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the District Judges. There is no correspondence between being a district judge, associate district judge, or special judge and the docket you may be assigned to handle.
All this I was able to puzzle out from prior knowledge and browsing through the relevant sections of the Oklahoma Statutes. What I still couldn't quite figure out is which of the 14 offices corresponded with the five electoral divisions, and which one was nominated from Pawnee County. Although electoral division 4 votes for office 4, I was pretty sure the pattern did not apply to the other offices. After a few phone calls, someone from the Tulsa County Election Board found the relevant info in the League of Women Voters handbook. So here it is, for your reference and mine.
|Office||Incumbent||Nominated by||Primary 2014||Elected by||General 2014|
|1||Kellough||Tulsa Co.||Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.||Yes|
|2||Harris1||Tulsa Co. ED 3||Yes||Tulsa Co. ED 3||Yes|
|3||Caputo||Tulsa Co.||Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.|
|4||Cantrell||Tulsa Co. ED 4||Tulsa Co. ED 4|
|5||Sellers||Pawnee Co.||Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.|
|6||Chappelle||Tulsa Co. ED 2||Tulsa Co. ED 2|
|7||Gillert1||Tulsa Co.||Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.|
|8||Barcus||Tulsa Co. ED 5||Tulsa Co. ED 5||Yes|
|9||Morrissey||Tulsa Co.||Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.|
|10||Fitzgerald||Tulsa Co.||Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.||Yes|
|11||Nightingale||Tulsa Co. ED 1||Tulsa Co. ED 1|
|12||Fransein||Tulsa Co.||Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.|
|13||Musseman||Tulsa Co.||Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.|
|14||Glassco||Tulsa Co.||Yes||Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.||Yes|
Offices elected by Tulsa County Electoral Divisions in red.
Offices nominated by Pawnee County in blue.
1 Not seeking re-election.
Eight of the incumbent district judges were re-elected without opposition.
Two incumbents did not seek re-election. Former Tulsa Mayor and Tulsa County District Attorney Bill LaFortune was the sole candidate for the open seat (Office 7) being vacated by Tom Gillert. Retiring judge Jesse Harris left the other vacancy in Office 2, which drew four candidates; Sharon Holmes and Tanya N. Wilson survived the primary and will face the general election voters in their north Tulsa judicial election district.
The other four incumbents face challengers in the general election:
Office 1: William Kellough v. Caroline Wall
Office 8: Mark Barcus v. Doug Drummond
Office 10: Mary Fitzgerald v. Eric Quandt
Office 14: Kurt Glassco v. Jill Webb
The contested races will be decided by all voters in Tulsa and Pawnee counties, with the exception of Office 2 (decided by voters in Election District 3, mainly the north part of the City of Tulsa) and Office 8 (decided by voters in Election District 5, which covers Tulsa County west of the Arkansas River and north of 141st Street S, plus north of the river and west of downtown Tulsa, plus the east side of the river south of downtown and west of Lewis). The Tulsa County Election Board hosts a map of the Tulsa County judicial election districts. So everyone in Tulsa County will have three district judge races on the ballot, and about half the county will vote on a fourth race. Everyone in Pawnee County will vote on Offices 1, 10, and 14, plus their county's Associate District Judge race.
Judges on the Court of Civil Appeals, Court of Criminal Appeals, and Oklahoma Supreme Court face retention every six years after their initial retention vote at the general election after their appointment. If there are more votes against retention than for retention, the judge is removed from office and the governor appoints a replacement.
It has been the City of Tulsa's policy for at least 15 years to build sidewalks when rebuilding arterial streets. During the recent reconstruction of Yale Avenue between 21st and 31st Streets, utilities were moved and sidewalks were built on both sides of the street, allowing safe passage for pedestrians and those in motorized wheelchairs. Even the historic brick columns that once marked the entrance to the Lortondale farm and the Meadowbrook Country Club were demolished to make room for the sidewalks, which were built within the city's right-of-way.
Even the east side of Peoria between 21st and 31st, through the well-to-do Terwilliger Heights neighborhood near Philbrook Museum, has a sidewalk, although it twists and turns around utility poles.
My very first column for Urban Tulsa Weekly, back in September 2005, was about the value of a walkable environment to people with disabilities, as well as other Tulsans who don't drive:
For tens of thousands of our fellow Tulsans, walkability isn't about rows of trendy cafes and quirky consignment shops, or about sidewalks to nowhere; it's about independence. For them, driving simply isn't an option. I'm not talking just about those who can't afford to operate a car.
There are those who are physically unable to drive. Many senior citizens, troubled by glare at night or uncertain of their reflexes, prefer to drive only during daylight or not at all. Teenagers are old enough to get around on their own, but either can't drive yet or shouldn't. For those who can't drive, urban design makes the difference between freedom and frustrating dependence.
Danny, a friend from church, has cerebral palsy and suffers from seizures. He can't drive, and he can only walk short distances with a cane, but he can get around with his electric scooter. Unfortunately, he lives on South Lewis, and he's been pulled over by the police more than once trying to go to the supermarket on his scooter. There aren't any sidewalks, and the only way to get to the store is on the street. Using Tulsa Transit's LIFT paratransit service requires booking a day in advance, waiting outside up to an hour for a ride, and leaving early enough to pick up and drop off other passengers on the way to his destination. LIFT isn't available on Sundays. If the next errand isn't reachable from the first by foot or scooter, it means another bus ride and another long wait. Because of the shape of our city, Danny doesn't have the freedom to go where he wants to go when he wants to go, and it makes Tulsa a frustrating place to live.
So sidewalks matter to Tulsans, and it's right and smart for the city to build them in the city's right-of-way, along with rebuilding the water and sewer lines when rebuilding the streets.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr evidently doesn't agree with the wisdom of this long-standing policy, because he has asked the Public Works Department to delete the sidewalk along the east side of Riverside Drive from plans for rebuilding that road around The Gathering Place. Dewey Jr seems to think it would be safer for pedestrians from nearby neighborhoods to cross four lanes of high-speed traffic on Riverside Drive, walk along the River Parks trail, and then cross Riverside again.
I wish I could say I was disappointed, but I can't say that I'm surprised. At least the neighborhood will be safe from muggers on Hoverounds.
MORE: No, they can't use the Midland Valley Trail to get to the Gathering Place; it's closed for three years.
STILL MORE: Good for Public Works director Paul Zachary for refusing to remove the sidewalk from the plans. Boo to Bartlett Jr. for forcing the removal, apparently at the behest of a campaign donor who is also his oil company's landlord.
An alumnus of Tulsa's Holland Hall School may hold the key to control of the U. S. Senate. Sean Haugh, Holland Hall Class of 1979, is the Libertarian nominee for Senate in North Carolina. He is on the ballot with Democrat incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican State House Speaker Thom Tillis.
While Hagan is consistently polling below 50%, she still leads Tillis by 3.4% percentage points in the latest RCP average. In the latest Rasmussen poll, Hagan leads Tillis 48% to 46%, with 2% preferring "another candidate." A month ago, the gap was 45 to 39 with 6% preferring another candidate. The latest USA Today poll has a 0.4% lead for Hagan, with 4% preferring Haugh. NBC News' latest, from a week ago, had Hagan up by 4%, with 7% preferring Haugh.
Republicans are concerned that Haugh may act as a spoiler; if he were out of the race, the theory goes, most of his voters would prefer the Republican to the Democrat. The third-party spoiler effect has been claimed in the 1992 presidential election, with Ross Perot drawing disaffected Republicans; the 2000 presidential election, with Green Party nominee Ralph Nader accused of taking votes from Al Gore; the 2002 Oklahoma governor's race between Brad Henry, Steve Largent, and Gary Richardson; and last year's Virginia governor's race. The counterargument is that third-party candidates attract many voters who would otherwise stay home.
The Third Party candidate may not be drawing support in the way observers assume. In that USA Today poll, 9 of the 22 respondents who preferred Haugh said they would vote for Hagan if Haugh were out of the race, while only 4 would move their vote to Tillis; the other 9 were undecided or refused to answer. That's an exceedingly small subsample with a very high margin of error, but it suggests that Haugh may be helping to keep the race close rather than helping to protect the Democrat incumbent.
Sean Haugh graduated from Tufts in 1983 and spent much of his post-college life working as a Libertarian Party organizer and activist. He served as the executive director of the North Carolina Libertarian Party and the political director of the national party. He was the party's Senate nominee for this seat in North Carolina in 2002. He retired from politics in 2010 and now delivers pizza for a living.
Haugh's campaign manager is Rachel Mills, who served for six years as Ron Paul's communications director in his Washington office and worked on his presidential campaigns. In a blog entry, Mills explains that she offered her skills to Republican Greg Brannon, who lost to Tillis in the primary, and then offered to help Tillis, but both campaigns ignored her:
I met with (Republican Senate primary candidate) Greg Brannon first in January of 2013 and detailed my experience, and let him know I was available to him in any capacity he needed. Anything at all. He seemed really enthused, thankful - blessed, even - to have someone like me available for his team. But as soon as he brought on an official campaign manager, I got the old "We'll call you." treatment. I never heard back. When I finally said heck with it and volunteered to help with a mailing, it was made very clear to me that I was not welcome to even do that. Perhaps I'll never know why I was good enough to work side by side with Ron Paul for 5 years, but not good enough to lick envelopes for Brannon. Greg Brannon lost.
After it was clear Brannon wasn't having me, I approached Tillis. Told him I'd like to help him reach out to the liberty folks and bring the party together. I'm a pragmatic type and see this as a great approach. If you want them, let me help you understand them and figure out how to appeal to them. Let's ask for their vote. "That sounds great. We'll call you." I waited a long time. I even went to his primary victory party and met all the key people in person. I was sincere in my offers to help. I understand though, that he had a ton of resumes flying around his head, of course, and by no means was I a shoe-in or entitled there either. I do think I would have been a smart hire. Fine to disagree.
Then Sean called. Together we developed a very simple way to spread a tangible, common sense liberty message, straight to the people, non-focus grouped, what you see is what you get, delivered by an everyman, not a politician. Sean and I together have the political experience to know the rules enough to properly break them - hence the beer on camera, the casual demeanor, etc. We are also on a shoestring so we have to consider what Sean can do well - and that is to just be himself.
Sean might not win, but look what we've accomplished together! A Washington Post reporter flew down JUST to interview Sean in my toy-strewn basement! And that was just the beginning. He's had lots of national attention on all the major networks and is polling much stronger than expected. He's even included in a debate! It's been very professionally, though not financially, gratifying.
Mills concludes that the Republican establishment may have to learn the hard way, through some lost elections, that they can't take libertarian-oriented voters for granted.
Sean Haugh's YouTube channel is the heart of his voter outreach efforts.
About the title of this blog post: Sean was two years ahead of me at Holland Hall. It's impressive to see how little he seems to have aged. A few grey hairs, deeper lines on the face, perhaps, but otherwise much as I remember him. It looks like the haircut and glasses are pretty much the same style. We reconnected some years ago when he was back in Oklahoma on behalf of an initiative petition to improve ballot access for Libertarians and other third parties. More recently I've been keeping up with his opinions on Facebook and Twitter (@EmperorSean).
When we were both in school, a freestanding chalkboard was left in the Commons, next to the southeast stairwell, after a school-wide lecture, students began to use it as a kind of graffiti wall. Jim Ringold began writing short, upbeat commentaries on the board, signing his essays with "The Friendly Philosopher." Sean Haugh responded with a cynical take on school life, signing his screeds with "The Unfriendly Philosopher." At some point, I began writing on the board, becoming "The Unfriendly Philosopher's Apprentice" and inheriting the title when Sean graduated.
Toward the end of sophomore year, I had decided to run for student council vice president. The vice president was in charge of stocking and maintaining the school's pop machine. (I don't remember if it was Coke or Pepsi or a mixture of the two, but the families who owned the rival bottling plants each had children at HH.) Sean agreed to support me, but he insisted that, if I won, he'd be able to load the machine with Foster's Australian Lager, as a sort of final, pre-graduation act of defiance. I didn't win (Stacy Schusterman and Pam Bloodgood did), and even if I had, as a teetotaler in a teetotaling Baptist family, I wasn't likely to let that happen.
Haugh, Hagan, and Tillis were part of a televised Senate debate tonight -- watch it online here. Tillis seems to say, "Sean is exactly right," as part of every answer.
Rebecca Berg of the Washington Examiner has a sympathetic profile of Sean Haugh. Berg confirms my impression of the non-evolution of Sean's style from his days at HH.
On Wednesday, Sean Haugh had just finished a live interview with Fox News when he headed to breakfast at a Waffle House outside of downtown Raleigh.
"I'm pretty sure I know exactly what I want," Haugh said, glancing quickly through his 1970s-relic glasses at the laminated menu....
Haugh is a perplexing and interesting political oddity. He dresses like he hasn't shopped for new clothes for decades. His campaign has consisted mostly of YouTube videos in which he drinks beer in his campaign manager's basement and chats about politics. He recently berated one commenter on his Facebook as an "ignorant moron."
And, in recent public polling, he has been winning as much as seven percent of the vote.
Fiddler Jimmy Young, bassist Mac Macrae, fiddler Dale Morris, Jr., with the Texas Playboys at Bob Wills Birthday Bash, Cain's Ballroom, March 6, 2010. Photo by Joseph Bates
Western Swing Hall of Fame fiddler Jimmy Young passed away Friday, October 3, 2014, in Amarillo, Texas, at the age of 85. Young played in western swing bands all over Texas and Oklahoma, performing with Bob Wills, Hank Thompson, Ray Price, Lefty Frizzell, and other western music legends.
Young was born in Dunbar, Oklahoma, grew up in Tuskahoma, and moved to Oklahoma City, where he began performing professionally with bands and on KBYE radio. Around 1950, after service in World War II, Young moved to Amarillo. In 1964, Bob Wills sold the Texas Playboys, shedding the responsibility of running a band, and he toured solo, performing with local musicians. When Wills came to Amarillo, Young would be in his band.
Beginning in 1993, Young performed regularly with Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, headed by Leon Rausch and Tommy Allsup, and for 30 years or so, he played with the Amarillo-based Sugartimers Classic Country Dance Band. In 2005, Young was inducted into the Western Swing Society of the Southwest Hall of Fame. In 2009, Young performed with the Texas Playboys at the Texas State Society's Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Ball in Washington, D.C.
It was a highlight of the annual Bob Wills Birthday celebration at Cain's Ballroom to see Jimmy do his Bob Wills impersonation when the band played "Faded Love" and "San Antonio Rose." Jimmy, very close in stature to Bob Wills, would stick a Roi-Tan cigar in his mouth (unlit) and mimic Bob, conducting with his bow, nodding his head in time to the music, doing a little jig-step, and making his characteristic commentary, for example: "Now, friends, here's the song that took us off hamburgers and put us on to steaks -- the San Antonio Rose!"
His grandson Dustin Young wrote a touching tribute to his granddad in the Amarillo Globe:
Growing up, I was always fascinated by the sound of his fiddle as he would warm up before a show.
With rosin dust hovering in the air, and the hum of his amplifier, he would go back and forth between playing and turning knobs in order to find his desired sound, by which he would enchant yet another audience. During every show I went to, the sense of pride that consumed me when he stepped on stage was both exhilarating and heartwarming. After every good lick he would always shoot me a wide grin as if to say, "Listen to this. I'm fixing to burn the hair off of this bow!" In my opinion I always had the best seat in the house at those shows.
Every musician I've met that knew my grandpa ends up telling me how much they enjoyed his playing and above all his demeanor among his fellow bandsmen. In a business where many can be very snobbish, Jimmy Young had always maintained a genuine sense of humility. Some folks can get a little bit arrogant once they have been inducted into the hall of fame more than a few times. Such accolades might boost one's ego and fill their heart with self-importance, but not in his case. He had always been the same man from my viewpoint. Never was he the fiddle-playing extraordinaire, or the Bob Wills impressionist, to me he was and always will be Opa.
Jimmy Young feature story on the Bob Wills Day website.
2005 story about Jimmy Young, Chet Calcote, and other Texas Panhandle musicians being inducted into the Western Swing Hall of Fame
Jimmy Young obituary in the Amarillo Globe
Jimmy Young playing Faded Love and San Antonio Rose as Bob Wills, October 4, 2008, in Odessa, Texas: